It’s a lucky woman who gets to choose her own family. Actress and animal lover Jill Lover comes home to her two favorite people every night – Shirley Chicken, a chihuahua/pug mix she adopted from the Lange Foundation, and Stanley, a 50-year-old desert tortoise rescued from a busy Los Angeles street. Mom spends hours photographing the pair in unlikely situations, such as wearing matching cheesehead hats when the Wisconsin native watches her beloved Green Bay Packers on the tube. They’ve shared a blanket at the beach, ridden in a model convertible and delivered birthday balloons together.
The pair is always a hit on trips to the local Starbucks, where Mama Jill enjoys a latte on the patio while Stanley grazes on clover and dandelions and Shirley Chicken mooches scraps and kisses from other patrons. Lover enjoys the notoriety. “I know some people think I’m nuts for bringing my tortoise out, but he really is like a low-key dog,” she says.
Not surprisingly, Stanley the tortoise has many admirers who stop by to pat his head and pose for photographs, often to the consternation of Shirley Chicken, the senior member of the unlikely partnership. When Stanley hogs all the attention, Shirley Chicken bounces into action to get her fair share, showering tortoise fans with even more kisses.Lover uses every opportunity to promote pet adoption as a means of building family. The Lange Foundation, where Lover found Shirley Chicken, and its sister organization the Amanda Foundation were founded by former model and actress Gillian Lange. To date the groups have successfully placed over 25,000 dogs, cats and horses identified at city and county animal shelters.
Lover, who had wanted to keep a tortoise for years before adopting Stanley, is also now a tortoise advocate, touting the reptiles’ friendliness and quirky personalities. As you’d expect, it’s quite different from keeping a dog. For one thing, tortoises have very specific dietary and sanitation needs. They also need to hibernate several months a year to stay healthy, no mean feat in a busy household.
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